Cities that reduced misdemeanor arrests also saw fewer police shootings
In response to nationwide protests last summer over the murder of George Floyd by police, many cities and states have tried to shift their focus from policing. One such strategy is to make fewer arrests for misdemeanors in an effort to reduce the number of potentially violent encounters between the police and the public. Virginia, for example, prohibited the police from detaining people exclusively minor traffic offenses at the beginning of this year. Meanwhile, Oregon Decriminalized drug possession. Louisiana restricted police from make arrests for certain misdemeanors, asking the police to issue a subpoena. And cities like San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, started sending doctors instead of cops to help people experiencing a mental health crisis.
All of these efforts are part of a change that has launched in America’s largest cities several years. But despite the effect these changes have had in reducing violent encounters with the police, these efforts have still been carried out. experienced a significant backlash, particularly from some in law enforcement who have blamed rising murder rates the police “back down” and are “underfunded.” This criticism has intensified as homicide rates have increased, although police budgets in most cities did not drop much in 2021 Y the murders are still marked in cities that increased their police budgets.
I am a data scientist and founder of Police Scorecard, a research group that analyzes police data to better understand how to end police violence. We’re still waiting for the federal government to release the arrest data for 2020 and 2021, but what we do know from previous years is that low-level arrests are on the decline, and that appears to have helped reduce the number of shootings by the police did not make violent crime worse.
Data from Uniform FBI Crime Report shows that overall arrest rates have been declining since the 1990s, when crime rates were much higher than they are now. These declines have been accelerated, in more recent years, by changes in policing in the largest cities in the United States. For example, police departments that serve 86 of the 100 most populated cities reported 30 percent fewer total arrests in 2019 than in 2013. This decline was particularly pronounced among misdemeanors, or crimes that do not involve crimes against persons, sex crimes, weapons crimes, or serious property and financial crimes. In the largest cities in the United States, arrests for low-level crimes decreased during this period by 38 percent, with arrests for disorderly conduct, curfew, and violations for loitering, gambling, prostitution, drunkenness, and rape violations. the alcoholic beverage law, all falling by more than 50 percent – the largest reductions in reported crimes. It wasn’t just changes in the police that reduced low-level arrests, policy changes enacted by city councils, local prosecutors, and state legislatures it probably also contributed to these declines.
While no national data for 2020 has yet been released, preliminary data suggests that arrests in large cities declined further from the closings in March and April 2020.
In other words, there has been a departure from Surveillance of “broken windows”, or the discredited idea that aggressive surveillance of minor crimes deters more serious crimes. But what has this change meant for crime in general and for reports of police violence?
Only 27 percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies report data on police shootings to the FBI’s National Use of Force Data Collection program, and no agency-level data from this program has been released. But the data that it is available suggests that in cities where there were reductions in low-level arrests, there were also reductions in police shootings.
Lawsuits for police misconduct are rare. Instead, cities pay millions to settle claims.
Searching open data portals, internal affairs publications, and media databases, I came up with data on fatal and non-fatal police shootings from 2013 to 2019 in 86 of the 100 largest cities in the United States. These cities reported a decrease from 749 police shootings in 2013 to 464 shootings in 2019, a decrease of 38 percent during this period.
And cities that cut low-level arrests by 50 percent or more, such as Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Newark, NJ, also saw some of the biggest reductions in police shootings. There were 57 percent fewer police shootings in these jurisdictions in 2019 than in 2013. In particular, police shootings actually increased in some cities that made the most low-level arrests, such as Jacksonville, Florida and Louisville, Kentucky.
To be sure, reducing low-level arrests is not the only reform that could have contributed to fewer police shootings. In this time period, the US Department of Justice also initiated reforms in 12 major cities through consent decrees, MOA wave Collaborative reform initiative, with cities that underwent these reforms, such as Newark and Baltimore, achieving much larger reductions in low-level arrests. Y police shootings. These cities would have been more likely to implement policies aimed at preventing illegal, excessive, or unconstitutional arrests, as well as new use-of-force policies that restrict the amount of force used by the police.
But not only did police shootings decrease. Reported crimes fell in jurisdictions that reduced low-level arrests; in fact, it was down just as much as in the cities that made the most low-level arrests. Consistent with recent research, cities that reduced low-level arrests did not experience an increase in violent crime, or murder, specifically, compared to other cities during this period. Additionally, cities that made fewer arrests for low-level crimes did not see a substantial reduction in arrests for violent crimes, suggesting that a more lenient approach to low-level crimes has not resulted in police being less responsive to serious threats to public safety.
However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Despite the changes that have taken place, low-level arrests still accounted for 55 percent of all reported arrests in the nation’s largest cities, and 69 percent of all arrests nationwide, in 2019. In other words, there are still plenty of opportunities for cities to make fewer low-level arrests, which could help police shootings drop further without compromising public safety. But unfortunately, the politics Surrounding the increase in murders and violent crime in some of the cities of the United States could make it difficult to pass these kinds of reforms, even though they seem effective so far.